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Nets' options to improve rebounding conflict with desire to space the floor

The Knicks' Mario Hezonja attempts a shot in

The Knicks' Mario Hezonja attempts a shot in the second half against the Nets' Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at Madison Square Garden on Monday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Every time the Nets get blown out by the Knicks, it underlines their lack of size and physicality when it comes to rebounding. It happened again in a 115-96 loss to the Knicks on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.

Over the past two seasons, the Nets are 1-5 against the Knicks, and four of those five losses have come by margins of at least 15 points. In Monday’s game, the Nets were outrebounded, 53-32, giving up 16 offensive rebounds that led to 29 Knicks points. The Nets rank next to last in the NBA in opponents’ offensive rebounds.

That’s not a good sign, especially with the Nets (2-5) facing physical Detroit (4-2) and their powerful inside tandem of 6-11 Andre Drummond and 6-10 Blake Griffin on Wednesday night at Barclays Center.

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson acknowledged the obvious trend, saying, “It’s something we’ve got to remedy. It’s not only the strongest guy in the weight room. You can do it with intelligence and an understanding of how to play the game. I’m disappointed. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and get ready for Detroit.”

Atkinson’s drawing-board options are limited because they conflict with his commitment to spacing the floor on offense to emphasize three-point shooting and create driving lanes. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, last season’s starting power forward, has been coming back from injury but had 16 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench and might be in line to regain his starting job from Jared Dudley even though he lacks a three-point shot. Dudley was scoreless in 18 minutes against the Knicks.

Another adjustment Atkinson could make would be pairing 6-10 backup center Ed Davis with 6-10 starting center Jarrett Allen. Davis got just 12 minutes against the Knicks, producing six points and six rebounds, even though he is second in the league behind Drummond in rebound percentage, second in offensive rebound percentage and sixth in defensive rebound percentage.

“It could be something we’ll look at,” Atkinson said. “With our group, we have to do it by committee. Shaquille O’Neal is not walking through that door to get 25 rebounds.”

Davis said Atkinson hasn’t played him and Allen together in practice yet, but he’s prepared for anything. “That’s what the NBA is about — making adjustments on the fly,” Davis said. “You lose three in a row, you’ve definitely got to switch things up a little bit, not just the coaches, but us as the players. Everybody has got to play better and do more.”

In his nine NBA seasons, Davis has taken two three-pointers and missed both, so he’s never going to become a floor spacer. But he believes pairing with Allen makes sense in certain matchups, such as against the Pistons.

“The NBA is trendy,” Davis said. “Teams try to emulate Golden State, but every team doesn’t have Draymond Green and Kevin Durant. But I feel like good teams play to their strengths. When you’re going against Detroit, they’re going to play Drummond and Blake. I know Blake can shoot it from three, but he’s not necessarily a spacer. It all depends on the team and what they’re going to do.”

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